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Planning Ahead with J&J's Global Head Executive Search-Pharma


Pharmaceutical Executive

The next Q&A in the HBSHAA series, Career Insights for 2020, Michael Wong interviews Caitlin Hadtke Gagnon from J&J.

With 2020 right around the corner, have healthcare firms bounced back to reclaim their employer of choice

Caitlin Hadtke Gagnon

eminence from 30 years ago? Consider Merck in 1990. During that period, Merck earned Fortune's “Most Admired Company” honor for seven consecutive years and secured an application to acceptance ratio for its sales rep positions of 70:1, compared to Harvard Business School’s (HBS) 13:1 for its class in 1990. With an apparent bounce back for some firms, this Q&A series (with Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association Co-President, Michael Wong, as interviewer) provides executive insights for readers to shape their own career paths in 2020 and beyond. 


Q. Why is healthcare still an attractive career industry choice? 

Caitlin Hadtke Gagnon: There are a multitude of reasons why healthcare is still an attractive career industry choice, but three key aspects come to mind for me. One, since the population of the world is growing and will continue to grow, I see healthcare as a high-growth industry and one that will continue to offer tremendous career potential. Two, healthcare offers one the opportunity to be involved in an industry that is focused on improving the well-being and overall health of not only specific patients, but also the overall population. Healthcare offers one the opportunity to be involved in doing something for the "greater good," hence hopefully helping to enrich one's life and overall job satisfaction. Three, healthcare offers a seemingly endless range of possible career paths. It can almost offer something for everyone-from being a physician or nurse involved directly in in-patient care, to a finance expert leading pharma/biotech business development, or even to an artificial intelligence "techy" developing robotics used in the operating room. Regardless of one's particular "functional" interest, the chance is that healthcare will be able to offer a broad range of opportunities or career paths for any given individual. 


Q. With Fortune's top three most admired firms (2018's report identified Apple, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway) placing big bets in healthcare and emerging technologies (Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation to name a few) gaining traction in the sector's C-suites, what are the top three career recommendations that you have for readers as they prepare for the upcoming new decade? 

Gagnon: The top three career recommendations that I have for readers as they prepare for the new decade are to be agile, to think globally, and to embrace diversity. Agility will be a key strength in the coming decade-those who are able to be flexible and shift their thinking and way of doing things to adapt to rapid market and customer changes will be best positioned for success. As you had referenced Merck, your readership might consider reviewing this interesting video which Heidrick & Struggles had produced around Merck’s development of leadership agility and its importance for their succession pipeline.[1] Global markets offer the greatest opportunities for growth and those who fail to think and expand globally will be "leaving opportunity on the table," so to speak. Especially from a healthcare perspective, emerging markets have the greatest need for improved healthcare availability and services, and thus offer a tremendous opportunity-not only for corporate growth, but more importantly in terms of improving the health of all human beings. In particular, readers who have been working in North America during pharma’s boom years in the 1990s have seen how other markets like China accelerated their importance to their employers’ global revenue growth. However, have these readers re-calibrated their global business planning to change given how product launches do not necessarily always start in the U.S. anymore? Lastly, in order to best meet the needs of a diverse customer population, the ability to build a strong diverse workforce will be a critical factor in creating the most innovative and successful solutions. It has been proven that the more diverse a workforce is, the higher-performing the organization is as a whole-from cutting edge ideas that lead the market to increased shareholder value. While I’m proud of my employer’s, J&J, numerous awards, I am especially pleased how well the firm scored on DiversityInc’s annual survey.[2] Without embracing agility, globalization, and diversity, one risks being passed on the career "track" by those that are.  


Caitlin Hadtke Gagnon is Global Head Executive Search-Pharma for J&J

Michael Wong is Co-President of HBSHAA.



[1] Krupp, Steve and Zeller, Theresa, Heidrick & Struggles, 2018, https://www.heidrick.com/Knowledge-Center/Event/Developing_leadership_agility_How_Merck_accelerated_its_succession_pipeline_webinar

[2] D’Onofrio, Kaitlyn, DiversityInc, May 2, 2018, https://www.diversityinc.com/johnson-johnson-claims-the-no-1-spot-on-diversityincs-top-50-companies-for-diversity-list-at-d-is-keystone-event/


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